Yom Kippur is a troublesome holy day. Coming out of a non-denominational Christian upbringing, I think I know why. Even for those who have been lead to embrace the Hebraic true-identity of Christianity, and perhaps especially for us, we have mixed feelings. How do we affirm the atoning work of Yeshua’s life and sacrifice and at the same time observe the day of Atonement, a “feast of the Jews”, as if atonement was not already finished? It’s very somber nature seems an affront to the Messiah’s accomplishment.
But God really has drawn me closer when I seek Him especially at His Feasts. First He had me seriously study the difference between forgiveness and atonement for the first draft of Backwards. Facing the question of whether someone should observe the Day (Yom) of Atonement (Kippur) if they believe in Yeshua, a better question might be what did Yeshua mean when He, a man who needed no atonement, observed Yom Kippur?
There are many answers to all these questions. God can create many different plants from a single seed. Here are one or two. Matthew 3:15 says ” . . . it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness . . . ” The context was a man needing redemption immersing the redeemer. It was good to be washed with water for sins even though Messiah had no sin. Wouldn’t keeping Passover have been the same for The Passover Lamb? First Fruits for the one who is the First Fruit? Yom Kippur for the one who is Kipporah? Yom Kippur is good simply because it is righteousness (a mitzvah fulfilled). And wouldn’t the answer be the same for the servant as for the Master?
There is another aspect, another layer. If you study Torah you find that atonement was available to everyone on every day. You did not have to wait a whole year to get forgiveness or atonement. Atonement did not even necessarily require a blood sacrifice (Num 25:13; Num 31:50; Num 35:33; 2 Sam 21:3; Proverbs 16:6). So if walking in justice (and therefore by faith) there should not have been anxiety over a huge burden of guilt that you needed to unload at Yom Kippur.
And wouldn’t that thinking miss the whole point? You knew and confessed your sin and wanted to be right with God, but He wouldn’t take you back until the 10th of the 7th month? God bends over backwards, accepting a couple of goats for all the sins of everyone . . . but He won’t except you back as an individual early?
Lev 16:16-24 says six times that besides himself the atonement is being made for the people. So I was praying last night, just watching the moon, confessing my personal sins and praying for my people, Americans, Hebrews, Israelis, people ofWest Union . . . I felt consternated, wanting to move forward with God, but spinning my wheels. It’s the feeling of something between me and God that is not necessarily sin, like a cloud passing between me and the moon. Static on the line so I should listen extra intently. And isn’t that what the scripture says? Call on Him in a time when He is near? When would He be nearer than Yom Kippur? So I take it to God. “Father, this is how I feel. What do you make of it? How do you see it?”
God brought Jonah to mind, a traditional reading for Yom Kippur. I’ve always focused on details like how Jonah was uncompassionate; how the king of Ninevah afflicted himself and his people with fasting which I figured was to teach us how to ‘afflict our souls’; and how God cares even about cattle. I was looking at what affliction looks like and not what it means.
Ninevah was somewhere else,Assyria. In fact, they were not friends of the house ofIsraeland eventually would be God’s judgment, taking the ten tribes into captivity. Ninevah was a hostile, gentile, pagan city.
And God had compassion on them.
That was what I missed. I caught that Jonah lacked compassion for this other people. I missed that God did have compassion. Joel 2 came to mind. I take 1-12 as being about Armageddon, the army there is the resurrected and translated army of Revelation (the called and chosen and faithful). So God’s people are there and the people on the other side . . . Coming back to the present Joel says turn, fast, mourn, weep, because maybe God will change His mind. But wait, if God’s people are to be that great army then why delay it? Why not hasten it? The people in danger are not God’s people.
And that is the danger. The danger is not the day of YHVH, the danger is being on the wrong side at that terrible day. If up till now Yom Teruah (the day of the blast) has been in view as Armgeddon at the return of Messiah, then doesn’t the solemn assembly and weeping of 2:15-16 speak of Yom Kippur and the judgment of peoples?
Now who would turn? God’s people (trueIsrael, not only-bloodIsrael), but God’s people are not the ones in realest danger. If everyone in the whole world is evil but one person calls on His name, He will not fail that one to destroy the others. Wasn’t that the point of Sodom andGomorrah? In Ezekiel 14:14, God says things had gotten so bad in the land that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were present they would save only themselves by their righteousness. If there are not enough righteous to spare a place, God is still faithful to save the individual.
After the four horsemen, Revelation 6:10 says that the saints in Heaven ask “Wow long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood . . . ?” God says “Wait a little season.” There is a great earthquake, and the sun and moon go dark. Listen to the kings, “Hide us from . . . the wrath of the lamb.” No repentance, no turning, just hide us. Did God send the quake? Or just marking it like the toll of a bell? Chapter 7, the earth and sea are not to be hurt until the servants have been sealed. You get the sense that much worse things are coming, but God is still delaying despite the unrepentance of Earth.
Then comes the seventh seal, and what happens? Silence, literally a hushing, for half an hour in Heaven. Can we understand what that means? That even the Serphim for half an hour no longer cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy?” What follows? The beginning of the seven trumpets. The tempo increases. The events the occur seem to be more directly caused by Heaven itself. An Angel tosses a sensor that becomes lightning and earthquake; blood and fire are “cast” upon the earth. Unlike that big quake and the famine and war, these seem to be supernatural.
So go back to that seventh seal. Half an hour of silence. What kept coming back to me as I prayed was why we who are seeking God are the ones afflicting ourselves? If all God’s commands are so that we will be like Him . . . then is God afflicted? Does it seem to you that this half an hour of silence is the turning point between “How long will you not avenge?” and “Woe to the inhabitants of the Earth”? If God’s people are not in danger at Yom Kippur, then is it possible that the reason we afflict ourselves is not because of judgment over us, but the judgment hanging over everyone else? Are we sorrowful, are we weeping, not for ourselves, but weeping with God because of what must come to pass? Is this the night and day that we see, as God sees, that one day His compassion will run out for the nations? For kingdom of the Enemy?
Is it a night of sadness, because God is sad? Is it possible that God just wants us to share that? That for one night He does not want to be alone with the weight of the world? That Father wants to know His Children are trying to get it? Do we tend to be Jonah, and forget that we were once Ninevah, and that all of the people who will not turn to God are still Ninevah? Do we take this one night and day to remember that God is not in a hurry to destroy, but one day He will? Is that why there is silence in Heaven, because there they truly realize what it means for the God who is slow to anger, to give into his wrath? It’s hard to imagine that even then a way of escape remains for the people of Earth (why else does he send his angels with warnings?) . . . and yet God knows the outcome of the trumpets in 9:20-21. They repented not. Is the silence not even because God is no longer merciful but because men will no longer be able in the hearts to take it? The agony of watching someone with a way to live choose their needless annihilation.
Yet for now, the way of repentance is available to all who will humble themselves and call on the name YHVH, Yeshua who is YHVH. Yom Kippur urgently offers another path to the Joy that is not yet. Joy in Yom Kippur, you say? We have certainly heard of the year of Jubilee, the 50th counted year. However, it was proclaimed in the 49th year at Yom Kippur. The commandment was to return every man to his family and every man to his possession and that it would be a year of rest. If we have humbled ourselves, then we are a part of God’s family. So the year of Jubilee proclaimed at Yom Kippur is a call of release to return to our Father and to his family and to our possessions in Him. The judgment of the world means the return of everything we have sold to it. Back in Joel 2 is the promise that the years which the locusts devoured, God will restore.
Yom Kippur is a day of sadness over what is coming, and a day of longing to prolong God’s mercy. In fact, if you understand atonement versus forgiveness, then in a sense and to a degree, our keeping Yom Kippur is part of atonement for the world. Just as God would have spared Sodomif there had been 10 righteous in it, by walking in righteousness, and confessing the sins of ourselves and those around us, we do righteousness on their behalf. Proverbs 14:34 can also be literally rendered “Righteousness exalteth a nation, and the kindness of peoples is a sin-offering.” But it is sad because one day it will no longer be enough. But then it will no longer be sad because it will bring Jubilee.